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Ezekiel 44

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
    Vision of the Restored Temple and Land
(40:1-48:35)
Vision of the Future Temple
(40:1-48:35)
 
Gate For the Prince The East Gate and the Prince Temple Ordinances The Use of the East Gate The Use of the East Gate
44:1-3 44:1-3 44:1-3 44:1-3 44:1-3
  Those Admitted to the Temple   Rules For Admission to the Temple Rules of Admission to the Temple
44:4-8 44:4-9 44:4-8 44:4-5 44:4-9
      44:6-8  
44:9-14   44:9-14 44:9  
  Laws Governing Priests   The Levites Are Excluded From the Priesthood The Levites
  44:10-14   44:10-14 44:10-14
Ordinances for the Levites     The Priests The Priests
44:15-27 44:15-27 44:15-27 44:15-19 44:15-31
      44:20-22  
      44:23-24  
      44:25-27  
44:28-31 44:28-31 44:28-31 44:28-31  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:1-3
 1Then He brought me back by the way of the outer gate of the sanctuary, which faces the east; and it was shut. 2The Lord said to me, "This gate shall be shut; it shall not be opened, and no one shall enter by it, for the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut. 3As for the prince, he shall sit in it as prince to eat bread before the Lord; he shall enter by way of the porch of the gate and shall go out by the same way."

44:1-3 This text is often used as a prophecy relating to modern Jerusalem, Israel. The modern city's wall has a sealed eastern gate, but these are not the walls of Jerusalem that were built by Solomon, Nehemiah, or even Herod. These modern walls were built by an Islamic ruler in the ninth century a.d. Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus in a.d. 70.

Ezekiel's temple is symbolic of YHWH's return to Palestine and His fulfillment of the covenant promises of the Mosaic covenant. Notice in context that this passage refers to YHWH Himself, who has already returned! He left the temple from this place (cf. chapters 8-10) and He once-and-for-all returned to this place (cf. v. 4; 43:4-5).

44:3 "the prince" This is a Messianic reference (cf. 34:24; 37:24-25).

▣ "eat bread before the Lord" This is a metaphor of worship and covenant (cf. Gen. 31:54; Exod. 24:9-11). To eat with someone was a sign of friendship and fellowship. It was one way to seal a covenant. This fellowship meal is institutionalized in the Peace Offering and the meal that follows (cf. Leviticus 3 and 7).

Also note that there is no hint that the prince is divine. The NT deity of the Messiah was a surprise because it seems to conflict with monotheism. Only the NT clearly reveals this surprising truth (i.e., John 1:1-14; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:2-3).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:4-8
 4Then He brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the house; and I looked, and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord, and I fell on my face. 5The Lord said to me, "Son of man, mark well, see with your eyes and hear with your ears all that I say to you concerning all the statutes of the house of the Lord and concerning all its laws; and mark well the entrance of the house, with all exits of the sanctuary. 6You shall say to the rebellious ones, to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, "Enough of all your abominations, O house of Israel, 7when you brought in foreigners, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in My sanctuary to profane it, even My house, when you offered My food, the fat and the blood; for they made My covenant void — this in addition to all your abominations. 8And you have not kept charge of My holy things yourselves, but you have set foreigners to keep charge of My sanctuary."

44:4 "the glory of the Lord" This phrase refers to the personal presence of YHWH (cf. 1:28; 3:23; 43:4-5; Exod. 24:16).

▣ "filled the house" This is reminiscent of

1. the tabernacle (cf. Exod. 40:34-35)

2. Solomon's temple (cf. I Kgs. 8:11; II Chr. 5:14; 7:1-3)

It was a visible way of showing YHWH's acceptance and presence. Ezekiel saw YHWH's glory fill the temple in his vision of chapter 10 (cf. 10:4), as it would at YHWH's return (cf. 43:5).

▣ "I fell on my face" Ezekiel (as all humans) is staggered by the holy, glorious presence of God (i.e., 1:28; 3:23; 43:3; Gen. 17:3; Lev. 9:24; Dan. 8:17; 10:9,10,15; Rev. 1:17).

44:5 This verse is very similar to 40:4, with three commands.

1. mark well (lit. "set your heart on") – BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative

2. see – BDB 906, KB 1321, Qal imperative

3. hear – BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative

Ezekiel is to be careful what he sees so he can describe this future temple accurately for a restored, obedient Israel, especially the new temple's entrances and exits.

44:6 "the rebellious ones" This noun (BDB 598) refers to Judah (cf. 2:5-8; 3:9,26,27; 12:2[twice], 3,9,25; 17:12; 24:3). They are called rebellious because they violated YHWH's statutes about the temple, especially in connection to non-Israelites' involvement in temple activities. This refers specifically to political alliances made with foreign powers (i.e., Egypt, Babylon, etc.). This involved their gods.

▣ "abominations" See Special Topic at 5:11.

44:7 "uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh" In context this refers to non-Israelites. It speaks of a rebellious heart, as well as an unbelieving (i.e., non-covenant) person. It could refer to

1. political alliances with foreign nations

2. welcoming foreign ambassadors by showing them the temple (i.e., II Kgs. 20:12-15)

3. foreign servants in the tabernacle (cf. Josh. 9:23,27)

4. the foreign guards in the temple (cf. I Kgs. 11:4-16)

but the exact reference is uncertain. Ezekiel witnessed some of the abominations which occurred in chapters 8-10.

The same expression, "uncircumcised of heart," can be used of rebellious Israelites (cf. Lev. 26:41; Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:25-26).

Circumcision was a covenant sign (cf. Gen. 17:9-14) and a covenant attitude of obedience and humility. The priests had violated this covenantal trust (cf. vv. 9-14).

▣ "profane" This term's (BDB 320) meaning is uncertain, but the same three consonant roots in Arabic meant "to loosen" or "untie," which came to mean "free from obligations." Here it refers to ceremonially defiling sacred places (cf. 7:21,22[twice]; 23:39; 24:21; Lev. 21:12,23). The temple was YHWH's house and the place of His dwelling. To disregard it was to disregard Him (cf. 23:36-45, esp. v. 39).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:9-14
 9Thus says the Lord God, "No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, of all the foreigners who are among the sons of Israel, shall enter My sanctuary. 10But the Levites who went far from Me when Israel went astray, who went astray from Me after their idols, shall bear the punishment for their iniquity. 11Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, having oversight at the gates of the house and ministering in the house; they shall slaughter the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them. 12Because they ministered to them before their idols and became a stumbling block of iniquity to the house of Israel, therefore I have sworn against them," declares the Lord God, "that they shall bear the punishment for their iniquity. 13And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things, to the things that are most holy; but they will bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. 14Yet I will appoint them to keep charge of the house, of all its service and of all that shall be done in it."

44:10 Some Levites were excluded because of their idolatry (cf. 44:12; chapters 8-10). Also Ezekiel goes back to the days of Solomon when he excluded the priestly line of Abiathar from ministering in the temple. Ezekiel extends this ban (cf. v. 15).

The other members of the tribe of Levi were to be temple servants with the responsibility of

1. being gate keepers, v. 11

2. accepting the sacrifices of the people, v. 11

3. slaughtering and butchering the sacrifices brought by the people, v. 11

4. not approaching YHWH's altar or holy things, v. 13

5. keeping charge of the temple (implying the daily activities of cleaning, preparation, and maintenance), v. 14

 

44:12 "I have sworn against them" This is literally "lifted up My hand." See note at 20:5.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:15-27
 15"But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood," declares the Lord God. 16They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to minister to Me and keep My charge. 17It shall be that when they enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering in the gates of the inner court and in the house. 18Linen turbans shall be on their heads and linen undergarments shall be on their loins; they shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat. 19When they go out into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall put off their garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers; then they shall put on other garments so that they will not transmit holiness to the people with their garments. 20Also they shall not shave their heads, yet they shall not let their locks grow long; they shall only trim the hair of their heads. 21Nor shall any of the priests drink wine when they enter the inner court. 22And they shall not marry a widow or a divorced woman but shall take virgins from the offspring of the house of Israel, or a widow who is the widow of a priest. 23Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. 24In a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances. They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts and sanctify My sabbaths. 25They shall not go to a dead person to defile themselves; however, for father, for mother, for son, for daughter, for brother, or for a sister who has not had a husband, they may defile themselves. 26After he is cleansed, seven days shall elapse for him. 27On the day that he goes into the sanctuary, into the inner court to minister in the sanctuary, he shall offer his sin offering," declares the Lord God.

44:15 "sons of Zadok" This designation goes back to David's day. As king he had two high priests (cf. II Sam. 8:17; 19:11; 20:25).

1. Zadok, son of Ahitub

2. Ahimelech, son of Abiathar

However, the line of Abiathar was involved in the attempted coup of David's son Adonijah and was removed from office by Solomon (cf. I Kgs. 2:35).

Remember, Ezekiel was of the line of Zadok, while Jeremiah was of the line of Abiathar.

▣ "fat and blood" These two items refer to the entire sacrificial system. They were the parts of the animals put on the altar of sacrifice.

1. The fat of the entrails was burnt. 

2. The blood was

a. placed on the horns of the altar

b. poured out at the base

 

44:15-27 Here is a list of what the faithful Zadokian priests can and cannot do.

  Accepted Actions Forbidden Actions
1.  wear linen garments  could not wear wool while ministering
2.  leave garments in the holy place  do not wear holy garments into the outer courts
3.  only trim their hair  no shaved heads nor long hair
4.   no wine while on duty in the inner court 
5.   marry virgins from Israel or the widow of a priest not to marry a widow or divorced woman 
6.  teach laws related to ceremonial purity (as a priest this was very important to Ezekiel, Lev. 10:10-11; 14:57; Ezek. 22:26)  
7.  judge according to God's revealed law  
8.  keep all laws themselves  
9.   not touch a dead person except in rare, special cases of compassionate necessity and then be excluded from service until a period of cleansing

This list was a literary way of asserting that the Mosaic covenant was reestablished!

44:18 "turbans" This term (BDB 802) refers to the headgear of all priests (cf. Exod. 28:40; 39:28), not the special miter of the High Priest.

▣ "linen undergarments" The Israelite priests were to be modestly clothed (i.e., Exod. 20:26), which was in contradistinction to the ritual nudity of Mesopotamian religions (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 891). Israel was to be distinct from the surrounding polytheistic religions of the Ancient Near East.

▣ "sweat" From a Mosaic perspective, any bodily fluids made one ceremonially unclean. Ezekiel is very concerned with ceremonial purity. As a trained priest his vision of a future symbolic temple and its staff and procedures must conform to the details of the Mosaic legislation.

44:20 "they shall not shave their heads" This is a Hebrew grammatical form which intensifies an action (i.e., imperfect verb and infinitive absolute of the same stem – BDB 493, KB 490). Here it means not just "clip," but do not shave the hair of the head. This term is found only here in the OT. This forbidden action is related to Lev. 21:5; Deut. 14:1, which denoted pagan rituals and/or practices. Much of the Levitical legislation can be understood as (1) limiting contact with Canaanite culture and (2) a way of differentiating between the common and the holy.

44:21 See Special Topic at 20:28.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 44:28-31
 28"And it shall be with regard to an inheritance for them, that I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel — I am their possession. 29They shall eat the grain offering, the sin offering and the guilt offering; and every devoted thing in Israel shall be theirs. 30The first of all the first fruits of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests; you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house. 31The priests shall not eat any bird or beast that has died a natural death or has been torn to pieces."

44:28 "I am their inheritance" The priests and Levites did not receive a part of the original land allotment (cf. Joshua 12-19), only special cities (cf. Joshua 20-21). They were to serve YHWH and trust Him for their provisions. He was their inheritance (cf. Num. 18:20; Deut. 10:9; 18:1,2; Josh. 13:14,33).

44:29 The regulations are first stated in Lev. 5:14-6:7; 7:1-7.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SACRIFICIAL SYSTEMS OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST

44:30 "the first of all" This offering is described in Num. 18:12; II Chr. 31:4-6; Neh. 10:35-37. It was a tangible way of thanking God for the bountiful produce of the land. It symbolized His ownership of the land and His control of its fertility.